Dad on Board bids farewell

After 12 years, my daughter will now write her own story

Let me tell you about Katie Burke.

Actually, I’ve been doing that for about 12 years in the Dad on Board column here in ParentingNH. I can be a little long-winded.

I can also be a little sentimental, so I’ve been wondering what the last column in a 12-year run would look like for some time now. It turns out — not at all like this.

Katie drew her first breath at exactly 6 a.m. on a rainy Monday morning in Derry nearly 18 years ago. In a way, I wish I could go back and tell myself what was to come — although it’s also been fun to watch it all unfold. She’s a musician, a comedian, someone who loves video games, and whether you ask or not, someone who will tell you all about how fat her dog is.

I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I’ve gotten literally everything I could want — a great kid and wife, a decent house, and a wicked nice blue Fender Jazz bass. But mostly the great kid. She’s super easy and has never given us a second of trouble. As far as you know.

For a while she spent Saturday mornings shooting Olympic-style archery. Then she was a goalie on a hockey team for a few seasons. Then she found her passion — music. First, it was violin, and then one day she got up on stage, stood on a small stool and started sawing away on an upright bass. Thanks to the guidance of a great music program and all of her amazing teachers, she’s getting ready to ride that doghouse right into college as she pursues music education.

That brings us to the end. These past few months have been weird, as they have been for everyone. There was a time when I thought that being sequestered with we three Burkes in our home sounded like heaven. And when all three of us are eating dinner together or playing a game on yet another quarantine Friday night, it is. Be careful what you ask for, because yet again, I got exactly what I wanted. (Note to the universe: I also want a waterfront home on Winnipesaukee. Still waiting.)

It brings me back to a Sunday evening when she was about five years old. She had just had her bath, her hair was still wet, and we were sitting around on the old red couch. I literally said to Katie’s mom, Amy, “How do we stop time — right here, right now?”

Turns out, I couldn’t then, and I can’t now.

So, this is how Dad on Board ends — with her mom and I turning her over to the world in the hopes it sees in her what we see in her: a funny, thoughtful, loving, talented, beautiful person with an immeasurable capacity for empathy and laughter.

Now she’ll write her own story.

Bill Burke lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. He is also the Managing Editor of Custom Publications for McLean Communications.


Editor’s note: The Dad on Board  column by Bill Burke debuted in Parenting New Hampshire Magazine in January 2008 with this column.

Daddy is many things, but he’s no Mommy

Fire-breathing dragons? No problem! but leave the jewelry battles to mom

Dob FirstcolumnI’ve had five years to perfect being a Dad.

It hasn’t taken.

I thought I was doing pretty well until I nearly removed my child’s ears on her birthday.

I have a 5-year-old daughter who is obsessed with the Disney film “Aladdin,” specifically the character Jasmine. She’s going through a phase right now in which she likes us to call her “Little Jasmine.”

On her fifth birthday, we managed to cobble together a Jasmine-theme celebration. At the end of the festivities she donned her Jasmine costume with a ceremonial flourish. It’s a pink version of the Arabian princess’s getup, complete with a regal top, flowing leggings and little pink, pointy shoes. The costume also comes with faux jewelry – and this is where the disaster beings.

Her mother put the plastic jewelry on her and she strutted around the house for a while. Not long after, her mother – a goaltender for the New Hampshire Lady Monarchs – left for a hockey game. This left me alone in the house with a bespangled 5-year-old whose bedtime was approaching. The time had come to de-bling her.

The necklace came off fine, as did the bracelets. I realized I had a problem, however, when she went to put on her pajamas. As she pulled the top over her head, it became caught on two oversized, plastic earrings firmly attached to her little earlobes.

The recipe for disaster was now in place. And it was triggered by two elements: My daughter doesn’t have pierced ears, and her father doesn’t have any fingernails. Gnawed down to the quick, my stubby appendages are not built for removing clip-on earrings.

“Come here, I’ll take your earrings off so you can change into your jammies,” I said. The poor kid trusted me.

I started fumbling with one of the golf ball sized baubles. I pulled, squeezed and yanked ineffectively, as I saw a mix of frustration and fear begin to register across her face. She was starting to realize that the earrings weren’t going anywhere. And she was learning something new: Daddy is not Mommy.

Daddy can’t make her hair look pretty before dance class on Saturday mornings. (However, he can find a hat to cover it up until we get inside.)

Daddy can’t remember to make some kind of vegetable to go with fish sticks at dinner. (But he can serve Oreos as an appetizer.)

Above all, Daddy can’t get costume earrings off of a little girl’s ears. (There is no witty parenthetical postscript here.)

I pinched and twisted at the offending trinkets, accomplishing nothing but erasing from her mind the fact that I am her father and would do nothing to hurt her, ever. Except maybe rip her ears off because I refused to be beaten by a pair of cheap, plastic earrings. She started to get a little alarmed.

“No, Mama can do it,” she said, backing away warily.

I followed her around the couch for about three laps, trying to convince her to let me give it one more try. I was unsuccessful. With an air of defeat, I told her that she could sleep with them on until Mama got home from hockey.

That night she went to bed looking like a three-headed gnome. The shiny orbs of confusion mocked me – her beautiful face flanked by two reminders of a bitter defeat.

It didn’t exactly help my self-esteem that it took my wife less than two seconds to remove them from the sleeping child when she got home.

But it has brought me some satisfaction that the earrings have since gone missing.

Bill Burke spent 16 years in the newspaper business and is now a magazine writer living in southern New Hampshire with his goaltender wife and 5-year-old daughter.

Categories: Dad on Board